A group of successful American farmers is set to train their Ugandan counterparts on modern farming to increase yields and address weather changes at a time when yields across East Africa have depressed on poor farming techniques.
The program which aims to connect farmers in the United States with their counterparts around the world for training and technical assistance has been organized through U.S. Mission Uganda, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The initiative will place 125 American volunteer farmers with projects that assist local farmers in Uganda.
Although the initiative has been running in other countries for close to three decades, Bruce explained that it’s the first time that Farmer-to-Farmer program is partnering with CRS. He explained, “The initiative has been running under the flagship USAID and it aims to transform agricultural sector development through volunteer assistance targeted at small farmers, agribusinesses and associations, and support services enterprises. This partnership is a five-year program to include nearly 500 volunteer assignments in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.”
According to Bruce, the crops that will attract massive consideration under this partnership are maize and oil seed crops such as ground nuts, sunflower, and sesame value chains. “These are the crops that have positioned themselves as vital to the masses within East Africa and need to be given special attention to ensure maximization of yields using modern farming techniques a move that can help safe guard the population from the shocks of food insecurity,” said Bruce.
Beneficiary farmers will be drawn from all regions within the country and in order to impact on them well, the expatriate farmers will meet and train farmers through their farmer groups at the district level. Most farmers who are already organised into farmer groups like through organizations like National Agricultural Advisory Development NAADS will provide a clear chain on how o implement the project. “The program will use the expertise of U.S. farmers, to help impoverished communities that we serve in this part of Africa,” said Bruce. Volunteers will spend two to four weeks in Uganda, focusing their efforts on agriculture, food security, and nutrition.
“One thing we are certain of is that this program will be beneficial not just to the farmers in East Africa, but also to the volunteers from America,” Bruce said. “It’s going to make the world a little bit smaller for everyone involved.”
In his kickoff remarks, USAID Deputy Director Mark Meassick noted, "The ambitious but achievable goal of the Farmer-to-Farmer program is to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of 10,000 low-income households. Since the program initiation, over 12,000 volunteer assignments have been completed in over 80 countries; and so far, approximately 43 percent of all individuals trained by Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers are women."
Agriculture is central to the Ugandan economy, accounting for more than 48 percent of exports, and 73 percent of employment. From 2011- 2016, the United States will invest over $150 million on agriculture and nutrition related activities that support the implementation Uganda’s Agricultural Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP).